Taxpayers Will Have A Chance To Weigh In
The Woodbridge Board of Selectmen, in a special meeting on June 4, chose to move forward the proposal of Brian St. Pierre, one of two developers who had expressed an interest to develop about a third of the former Country Club of Woodbridge property for 55+ active senior housing. The Democratic selectmen voted for the proposal, the two Republican selectmen voted to abstain.
“In June and July, a contract will be negotiated,” Heller said at the June 12 Selectmen’s meeting. If successful, the Board of Selectmen in August will set a date for a special town meeting, giving residents a chance to hear the details of the proposal. The Town Meeting will happen after Labor Day, she said, to ensure that most people will be back from vacation. After residents had a chance to get all the information to make an informed decision, the proposal will be referred to a referendum vote, possibly in September or October.
St. Pierre said he wants to purchase about 60 acres from the town to build approximately 120 houses for 55-and-over active adults. His proposed sales price is $5.1 million. The rest of the property, about 90+ acres, would stay in the town’s hand and could be turned into a town park. Although he said he would not be averse to helping the town with that project, the park will be the town’s responsibility. St. Pierre did agree to demolish the existing club house and build a new pool and smaller pool house for the town’s use. Tennis courts would be restricted to residents of the new development, St. Pierre said.
The other proposal, put forth by Robert Sachs, was very similar in size, although different in the location on the 150-acre property. While Mr. St. Pierre’s layout is parallel to Woodfield Road, Mr. Sachs suggested to build parallel to Ansonia Road. The location along Woodfield Road was the preferred location, said First Selectman Beth Heller, when asked about why she chose one over the other.
Sachs said it would be smaller than Fieldstone Village, the development he built on the Orange side of Route 34. Even so, the look would be similar, with varying facades. His Woodbridge proposal would be for somewhere between 90 and 120 units. He also would demolish the old club house, but he would not replace the existing pool. If the town wanted, he would remove the pool. His proposal also did not include any environmental cleanup, although his development proposal would encompass some areas that had been identified as being contaminated from the years it operated as a country club. The sales price Sachs mentioned was for $5 million.
Heller said selling a part of the Country Club property will help eliminate the debt the town incurred for the purchase of the property 10 years ago, without having an impact on the school enrollment. It will also create a sizable amount of tax revenue going forward, and leave the town 90 acres of open space that it can use for recreational uses. “There are a lot of proposals out there,” Heller said – such as for hiking and biking trails, picnic tables and sledding.
Selectmen disagreed how much the town would actually gain in taxes from this development. Selectman David Lober said if a Woodbridge couple moved into the new development and a family with school-aged children moved into their house, the town would end up footing the bill for those children’s school education. Teri Schatz responded, saying the new development would increase the town’s Grand List by up to 120 taxpayers, and thereby increase the tax revenue.
Selectman Cardozo added, “If folks are moving out of town [because there is no comparable housing option in Woodbridge] those taxes are going to another town.” Cardozo brought up the concern of residents, that developers may bypass the zoning regulations and push the project through by offering some affordable housing units. St. Pierre said if Plan and Zoning does not approve their project, he would not be interested in pursuing it.
Joe Dey suggested to postpone the selectmen’s vote, as the special meeting did not allow for public comment. He said the information had been “coming at us piecemeal,” and left them asking a lot of questions.
Heller said residents will have opportunities to ask questions and express their opinions at the planned presentations and at the special town meeting. The June 4 special meeting was for the information of the selectmen, so they could decide which development to bring forward.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent